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Deal Me In: Bad beat for the book

4 November 2011

Dear Mark: With all football games now going into overtime instead of settling in a tie, does that help the house or the player? John P.

At the outset, John, my response would be neither, in that once the line is set, a skilled bookmaker continually tweaks the line to get equal amounts wagered on both teams to assure the casino its profit.

However, some of these overtime games are creating some big totals. By that I mean some bettors stake their action on the over/under wager, which is a bet on whether the combined total of the points scored by the two teams will exceed or be less than a specified number. Because the amount wagered in sports books on over/under wagers is far less than that bet on a point spread wager, the book can carry some lopsided action. This imbalance can happen as well with a “line” wager.

Just this weekend Vegas took a beating by not just an overtime game, but because it went triple overtime. The "steam" creator was the public when there was disproportionate action all leaning towards Stanford. Going into overtime, the sports book probable winner, USC, ended up being the loser.

Here’s how bettors made a ton of money on Andrew Luck and Company with their 56-48 win in triple overtime. Since Stanford had covered every game to date, bettors jumped all over them as a 7.5-point favorite against the Trojans.

When the game went into OT, there was only one possible scenario where Stanford would cover: USC would win the toss, the first two overtimes would result in ties, and Stanford would score a touchdown and a two-point conversation in the third-OT. As long as USC did not score a TD with their third OT possession, winner winner chicken dinner for the good guys. A fluke, maybe, but I imagined that possibility at the overtime coin toss, figuring, hey, I still have a chance here.

It materialized, Stanford covered by a half-point, and Vegas got burned.

Dear Mark: Do you have any thoughts on 6/5 blackjack games? James B.

Yes, the game has become far too prevalent, and unfortunately, the uninformed masses continue to play it.

Blackjack games that offer 6/5 for a blackjack and just not worth playing. You want to get maximum value for your blackjacks, James, and you do that by getting paid 3 to 2, not 6 to 5. These 6/5 games give the casino an edge of almost 1.5 percent.

Boots are made for walking, and I recommend all players vote with their feet and avoid this game.

Dear Mark: I like to hop from one machine to the next when the machine goes cold. Is this smart play? Mary O.

There is just no mathematical reason, Mary, to bunny hop from one machine to the next after any number of winning, or losing, spins. Machines are always hot or cold, Mary, but that is nothing more than past performance and not a way of predicting the future.

Now if a machine isn’t paying after a certain number of losing spins, and you are getting a bit anxious because of it, yes, that’s reason to switch. However, Mary, that is an emotional reason, and not a mathematical justification for changing machines.

There are some advantages to moving, one of them being exercise. With the size of casinos today, a couple of laps around the casino floor and you’ve got yourself a decent 30-minute cardio workout. Moreover, while working out you are not risking your hard-earned money playing a machine that can have up to a 20 percent built-in edge over your play.

Casino Wisdom of the Week: "All the things I love to do in a casino, either threaten my wallet or my liver." --VP Pappy, Poker Think
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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.